Straight To the Pointer

Magic Hollow 

 Calvin held her turkey blt on rye in his good hand. The other was dramatically bandaged, wrapped in a dish towel, saran, and held together by an assortment of Barbie dream girl band aids. Letting himself in as directed, he stepped into a clean, minimally designed home that teetered on the border between clinical and classic.

 "Parker?" As he called his cat did the same, perking up and yowling its own hello. The hardwood squeaked quietly beneath his feet, prompting him to stare down at his shoes. Kicking them off to be polite, his toes wiggled in his equally dirty, hole-ridden socks before he went off in search of the younger cat. "Parrrrrkerrrrrrrrr..."


Parker as in the kitchen, with her med kit spread on the counter. She'd made certain she had everything she needed three times now. The opening of her door made her look up, able to see Calvin enter through the open space above her stove. She tucked her hair behind her ears, took in a small breath as her own cat riled and mewled, and moved to step around into the dining room. She came to the doorway that lead into the living room, through which Calvin was entering from. "Here," She beckoned, noting his bandaged hand immediately. "We will be in here," She motioned to the dining room table, which she had laid a white towel across just in case.

 He waved his injured hand in greeting, quite proud of his own pink-studded handiwork. Coming over, he started to undo the wrapping so she could see. Meanwhile, his cat strutted to her, chirping his delight. "I think it's healin' but it's takin' it's sweet shit-caked ass time. An' I jus' wanna know if ya think it's gonna...well....stay like this er if ya think I might luck out an' get mah finger back."

 Extensive introduction over, he unveiled the grisly masterpiece of stupidity, watching her, interested in her reaction. "Whatcha think?"

The bandaids were amusing, but she hardly gave a smile as he came toward her and got right to the meat of it. She watched him pull away the bandages to reveal... half of a finger. Her tongue pressed against the roof of her mouth, a practice she took to as some internal barring of the cat that rushed forward to inspect. Parker had seen many, many gruesome things. The finger was chopped above the knuckle, the skin thick and pink and scabbing, whilst a small point of bone shone through the top. Parker extended a hand to take his and lay his fingers flat across her palm. A step forward as she knit her brows and inspected the wound. Apparently, already healing.

"When did this happen?" The wound looked at least a week old. Had he been managing with gauze and barbie bandaids this whole time?

 She had thin, nimble hands, and it wasn't the first time that Calvin was struck by the similarities Parker shared to his daughter. Both slim, dark-haired beauties, intelligent and unique and keen.

 "Jus' a couple days ago. When it scabbed over quick I thought maybe it wouldn't grow back but now I'm seein' that lil white fuck there an' -- I jus' wasn't sure an' I didn't wanna make it worse. Thought I'd let the expert handle it."

Two days, and it looked like this. It was reminiscent of the wounds she'd sustained from her turning, though Parker had assumed that that was just the isolated case. She still had the scars, but the wound had healed startlingly fast. It seemed it was the case for Calvin here, as well. But, the wound scabbing and healing over was one thing, but the bone reforming? That was entirely foreign to Parker. "Mm." She said pensively.

"Bones don't grow back, but it looks like this one is... reforming." She noted, largely to herself. Bones did, to some extent, heal themselves, but they had never been recorded as completely regenerating. She'd built false bones to insert into collapsed skulls, but that was an entirely separate practice. "I'll clean the wound and dress it. If it's healing to this extent in two days, it doesn't seem like there is any chance for deterioration." She was rambling, she told herself. Parker stopped and pressed her lips together, breathed steadily through her nose and turned her eyes to Calvin. "I don't know if it will come back entirely."

 "Well, I guess somethin’s better than nothin’, right?" The rate of regeneration and the fact that it was growing back at all was inexplicable -- but the same could be said for their mutually cat-crazed existence. "All this shit’s so wild. Sometimes it hurts mah brain ta think about, ya know?"

 Holding out his hand for her, he was patient while she did whatever she needed to do to redress his hand. "So how’d all this happen to ya. No offense er anything, but ya don’t strike me as the adventurous type. Not that ya need ta be, but -- I was campin’ out under an overpass one night when the fucker got me."

She supposed half a finger was better than one. She wondered if his toe would be missing when he shifted. A missing bean. She got to work as he settled, peeling away the rest of the dressing and setting the hand upon a clean clothed table. With that, she reached to pull gloves from a box and slip them on, then grabbed swabs and disinfectant to wet it.

She set about dabbing at the wound as he questioned her and pulled the veil that hung between them about some of their past. It was something she was only comfortable sharing because he was one of her own kind. "I was working on a body. A woman came in in hysterics and said that I was ruining him, and that he needed to have a proper burial." She delivered her words steadily, without contempt. "When she was being escorted out, she grew claws and teeth and bit me in a fit." She said as he finished her cleaning of his finger. Next, she grabbed a solution that would numb the area, and began to apply it.

 He scoffed, disgusted. "That's a rough fuckin' hand." The cards of life weren't kind, especially, it seemed, to Parker. "Ya got some shitty-ass luck, kiddo. I'm sorry it happened that way. Not that gettin' bit is ever a walk in the park." Perhaps some of them were planned, carried out with care and composure, but everyone he'd ever run into had been the product of an accident, of shit hitting the fan over and over again.

 "How ya been since that whole rat-fuck fiasco? Anyone bother ya bout it?"

Well. she'd thought so. But Parker was not particularly unaccustomed to being dealt poor hands in life. She made it work. Calvin was a certain kind of vulgar that reminded her of the people she'd known while she still lived with her number. Loud, flippant with their words, but generally well meaning. It was somewhat a comfort.

"I'm alright at blending in. I don't think anyone can recognize me." She said as she finished the application. "Ten minutes, and we will apply a few stitches." She tapped the top of his hand, and sat back to remove her gloves and fold her hands in her lap.

 He wrinkled his nose, because at his core, he was a baby.

 "Ya think stitches er really necessary if it's comin' along the way it is on it's own?" If they were, he wanted painkillers. Or alcohol. Or both. Sitting there with his arm still extended, he rested his chin on the palm of his other hand, staring at the girl. "Yer an odd duck, Parker. Why'd ya wanna play with dead things all day?"

"Yes, I do." She said simply. "That will numb it." If that was his worry, she intended to put it to bed. Parker disposed of the gloves in a small red container, though her ears were trained on Calvin as his questioning. The often placid curve of her lips turned downward at the term 'play'. "I don't play." She informed him, looking back to his face. It was harder now, to speak. Not looking at his face offered her somewhat of a barrier behind which she could defend her interests. But looking him in the eye crumbled that.

"It's... it interests me. And I like to help people." The latter of the two, really, was just an afterthought perk to her job. If that was all she was interested in doing, then she would not have a room in her home that she practiced taxidermy in. She would not obsess over cases of strange death. She would not quite be the same person.

 His closest neighbor back in Louisiana loved Jesus and dead things. He hung bones next to crucifixes, each cross framed with a bleached benefaction. Calvin had asked him the same question. He said he liked the design. God’s blueprint laid out in a network of joints and veins and organs. He’d always said the human skull displayed on his mantel as proud as a family picture was a found thing. Right over tucked away in a couple of mangroves. Calvin hadn’t gone looking for the rest.

 Calvin wanted to ask how she thought seeing a waxy version of a loved one, clean and sterile before they were wormfood was helpful, but he didn’t. He stayed still and let her work and watched her with curiosity blithe enough not to turn into judgement. "I had mah daughter cremated. Couldn’t look at her again. But it’s good that ya can do that fer those who wanna."

A dead daughter. It was telling, and she could not help but connect it to some of his abrasiveness. "Some people can't." She said, moving to smooth her hair behind her ears, though not a strand had moved from place. "And some need it." She added. Some needed to see it for closure, some needed to keep a memory of their loved one alive as the final thing they saw of them. Her eyes dropped to his hand, the severed finger. "And, some do not get the opportunity to choose at all." She thought of the memorial services she had helped to orchestrate, in which there had been no body to bury or cremate. Memorial tables, pictures of loved ones, flowers. Even, on a few occasions, a casket filled with personal or beloved belongings and a picture.

She thought of her mother, whom she had never attended a funeral for. Whom had never been pronounced dead or alive, or even searched for. For whom she'd conducted her own funeral for, in the park nearby the apartment they had lived in, for which she buried her mother's hair beret and a few picked dandelions in a tissue box. Despite the reflection, her expression remained placid and practiced. "My condolences, for your daughter. What is her name?" He did not have to answer.

 His daughter had been the kind of viper that didn’t come with a warning. She was born with a shrewdness beyond her years and a talent for mean, but she was always sweet as sugar to her daddy. He’d call her name, a two syllable toll that perfumed the air with fatherly affection. But she went and tied all of her tomorrows to a man as sticky and slimy as the swamp mud.

 Calvin couldn’t remember the last time he’d said her name out loud and the booming beast of a man withered in the eclipsing shadow of re-realized isolation. Pulling his hand back across the table he rose and began to move out of the room. "Her name was Laura. Thank ya fer takin’ a look at it, but I think it’s gonna heal on its own."

 And if it didn’t it’d just be another wound he’d carry with him. "I should get outta yer hair."

A nerve was struck, and she watched as it unraveled something within Calvin. A snip of a feeble thread that was somehow holding back so much that it was a feat that it had held up for so long. She saw it often, speaking to clients of their funeral arrangements. Often in fathers, discussing his child's coffin. It was never an easy discussion, asking what wood someone would prefer, or if they would like cream or ivory lining. There was often an attempt to keep it all business, until something was said, or it really just hit what the topic was they were mulling over. A flick of a switch, a tightly closed faucet finally wrenched loose.

Parker was trained to step back, to allow the person time to collect themselves. If they needed to leave, it was perfectly fine. Unfortunately, Parker could not let Calvin leave. She sighed as she stood, reaching out to clasp her slender fingers around his wrist to hold him there. "In the very least, let me dress and brace it." Parker instructed, shying away from imploring or begging, and instead simply offering an alternative that was not entirely negotiable. It sent cold chills along her spine, and her gut twisted, but she had started something and intended to finish it in some capacity.

 Calvin Bates walked a line between obsession and denial. He looked down to the broken watch on his wrist, hands unmoving from the hour and minute of her birth, not her death. He said good morning to her at every sunrise and goodnight before he fell asleep. It was far too cavernous a loss to ignore, but Calvin held her memory close, as if the more people knew about his daughter the less precious she'd become.

 Staring down at the gentle hand wrapped round his wrist, his gumption deflated, waning to her medical expertise. "Fine." Going back to the table, he sat, bending his finger experimentally.

Metaphysically, the cat had less apprehension of the touch. While it felt inherently wrong to be holding his wrist, the more primal side of her approved. Purring and a gentle head butt that she finished out with rubbing her face along the larger cat's neck. It shaved down the edge of discomfort, but she did not linger in her grip for longer than it took for him to concede. When he sat back down, she did as well, and went to retrieve cotton pads to clear away the numbing cream. Ideally, she would have been allowed to suture, but there was no sense in making the situation any more stressful. In the end, both of them were equally exposed to the danger of shifting if things became too much.

To work she went, then, dressing the finger in sterile gauze, then moving to fit it with a split that did not wrap over the top of the finger. Surely, it would not last for long if the finger did in fact grow back, but she hoped it would ease some of the pain involved. She would not press Calvin to speak any further if he did not want to. No questions, no prying, it was not her business. She expected the same courtesy from anyone; however little it was actually given to her. Everyone wanted to know everything about everyone.

 He leaned into the brushing, familiar contact of their beasts, welcoming the distraction. The cat purred, tucking his head beneath her as he arched his back to rub their pelts together. Even the beast seemed subdued, the mushy press for closeness far from its usual antagonistic bats and boops.

 When she was done, he sat back with a slow nod of his head. "Thank ya. If I can ever repay the favor lemme know." She deserved more than he gave her -- a hug or some lingering attempt at social engagement, but instead he forced a smile and headed for the door.

"No, that's alright- um, I'll keep that in mind." She did not want to dismiss his offer completely. Parker would walk him to the door, and when it was shut, she would bite at her lip and move to clean up her kitchen table.

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